|Historical notes: ||Aboriginal people are believed to have inhabited the Sydney region for at least 20,000 years (Turbet, 2001). The population of Aboriginal people between Palm Beach and Botany Bay in 1788 has been estimated to have been 1500. Those living south of Port Jackson to Botany Bay were the Cadigal people who spoke Dharug (Randwick Library webpage, 2003), while the local clan name of Maroubra people was "Muru-ora-dial" (City of Sydney webpage, 2003). By the mid nineteenth century the traditional owners of this land had typically either moved inland in search of food and shelter, or had died as the result of European disease or confrontation with British colonisers (Randwick Library webpage, 2003).
pre-1780s - local Aboriginal people in the area used the site for fishing and cultural activities - rock engravings, grinding grooves and middens remain in evidence.
1789 - Governor Philip referred to 'a long bay', which became known as Long Bay.
1820s - Crown grant for 'Church and School Lands' of 1730ha included the nominated area.
1855 - village reserve set aside at Long Bay.
1850s - recreational shooting began on the rifle range site.
1859 - Randwick Minicipal Council created, covering the nominated area.
1861 - Church & School Lands resumed by the Crown and land sales begin.
1888 - recreational target shooting reported to be in action.
1898 - the Hereward wrecked on cliff base
1899 - the Tokapo wrecked on cliff base.
1902 - NSW Government reaffirmed public recreation reserves in the nominated area.
1910 - NSW Government dedicated the whole headland for military purposes.
1916 - a cliff face ocean outfall for sewerage established south of the nominated area.
1919 - a permanent rifle range site was surveyed on the site.
1929 - control of the rifle range was transferred to the Commonwealth.
1931 - the MV Malabar wrecked near Boora Point, and the name quickly adopted for the local village to distinguish it from Long Bay Gaol.
1939-1945 - various military installations (c43 in number) built on the site, notably the Boora Point Battery.
1951 - Cumberland County Plan zoned the nominated rea as 'special uses'.
1967 - NSW Rifle Association clubs transferred to the site from Holsworthy.
1968-1988 - rifle range site used for extensive land fill operations, possibly from nearby industrial sites.
1970 - name of the area changed to Anzac Rifle Range.
1986 - Commonwealth announced intention to dispose of property, and official military use ceased.
1980s - the name Malabar Headland began to be used after early natural vegetation surveys began.
1990s - legal action undertaken by NSW Rifle Association to prevent disposal of the site.
One of the earliest land grants in this area was made in 1824 to Captain Francis Marsh, who received 12 acres bounded by the present Botany & High Streets, Alison & Belmore Roads. In 1839 William Newcombe acquired the land north-west of the present town hall in Avoca Street.
Randwick takes its name from the town of Randwick, Gloucestershire, England. The name was suggested by Simeon Pearce (1821-86) and his brother James. Simeon was born in the English Randwick and the brothers were responsible for the early development of both Randwick and its neighbour, Coogee. Simeon had come to the colony in 1841as a 21 year old surveyor. He built his Blenheim House on the 4 acres he bought from Marsh, and called his property "Randwick". The brothers bought and sold land profitably in the area and elsewhere. Simeon campaigned for construction of a road from the city to Coogee (achieved in 1853) and promoted the incorporation of the suburb. Pearce sought construction of a church modelled on the church of St. John in his birthplace. In 1857 the first St Jude's stood on the site of the present post office, at the corner of the present Alison Road and Avoca Street (Pollen, 1988, 217-8).
Randwick was...slow to progress. The village was isolated from Sydney by swamps and sandhills, and although a horse-bus was operated by a man named Grice from the late 1850s, the journey was more a test of nerves than a pleasure jaunt. Wind blew sand over the track, and the bus sometimes became bogged, so that passengers had to get out and push it free. From its early days Randwick had a divided society. The wealthy lived elegantly in large houses built when Pearce promoted Randwick and Coogee as a fashionable area. But the market gardens, orchards and piggeries that continued alongside the large estates were the lot of the working class. Even on the later estates that became racing empires, many jockeys and stablehands lived in huts or even under canvas. An even poorer group were the immigrants who existed on the periphery of Randwick in a place called Irishtown, in the area now known as The Spot, around the junction of St.Paul's Street and Perouse Road. Here families lived in makeshift houses, taking on the most menial tasks in their struggle to survive.
In 1858 when the NSW Government passed the Municipalities Act, enabling formation of municipal districts empowered to collect rates and borrow money to improve their suburb, Randwick was the first suburb to apply for the status of a municipality. It was approved in Februrary 1859, and its first Council was elected in March 1859.
Randwick had been the venue for sporting events, as well as duels and illegal sports, from the early days in the colony's history. Its first racecourse, the Sandy Racecourse or Old Sand Track, had been a hazardous track over hills and gullies since 1860. When a move was made in 1863 by John Tait, to establish Randwick Racecourse, Simeon Pearce was furious, expecially when he heard that Tait also intended to move into Byron Lodge. Tait's venture prospered, however and he became the first person in Australia to organise racing as a commercial sport. The racecourse made a big difference to the progress of Randwick. The horse-bus gave way to trams that linked the suburb to Sydney and civilisation. Randwick soon became a prosperous and lively place, and it still retains a busy residential, professional and commercial life.
Today, some of the houses have been replaced by home units. Many European migrants have made their homes in the areaa, along with students and workers at the nearby University of NSW and the Prince of Wales Hospital. (ibid, 218-9).
On the 19th January 2016, Federal Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt and NSW Environment Minister Mark Speakman announced the completion of the transfer of ownership of the South-Eastern Malabar Headland (also known as Lot 304) from the Commonwealth to the people of New South Wales. 'We have quadrupled the size of land on the Malabar Headland that will be owned by the people of New South Wales,' Minister Hunt said. 'The South-Eastern Headland is the most beautiful and scenic part of the Malabar Headland with panoramic coastal views rivalling any other section of Sydney's stunning coastline. We have fully funded a $5 million upgrade to the Central Malabar Headland, confirmed in the recent release of the 2015-16 Mid-Year Economic Fiscal Outlook. This includes funding to return the South East Equestrian Club to the Headland. The necessary remediation and constructions works are expected to be commence shortly. Funding will also be used to improve safety and other amenities on the ANZAC Rifle Range, as well as completing a scoping study to investigate alternative sites for a mutually agreeable relocation of the New South Wales Rifle Association. We are committed to ensuring the whole of the Malabar Headland is kept in public hands in perpetuity,' Minister Hunt said.
Minister Speakman said the transfer was a win for the local environment with the South-Eastern Headland home to some of the last remnants of the threatened Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub and a surviving coastal battery from the defence of Sydney during World War II. 'On behalf of the people of New South Wales, I am delighted to welcome back this portion of the Headland after nearly a hundred years of Commonwealth ownership,' Minister Speakman said. 'We will now work hard to gazette the area as a National Park and to enable safe and significant public access,' Minister Speakman said (Sydney Morning Herald, 19/1/16).
70 hectares of Malabar Headland (its eastern side) were declared a National Park by the State Government (Southern Courier, 16/2/16). The eastern section of the National Park was officially opened in March 2017 (NPWS e-news, 18/3/2017).